Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs condo values focus of dispute

City Accounts Commissioner John Franck defended his department’s assessments on Tuesday in the face

City Accounts Commissioner John Franck defended his department’s assessments on Tuesday in the face of allegations that there have been irregularities in condominium valuations.

Mary Zlotnick, a suspended Accounts Department clerk, alleged that some condominium owners had their assessments lowered improperly.

Franck said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that he went through every assessment change that Zlotnick had mentioned in recent weeks.

“I went through every property reduced in 2011 and 2012,” Franck said. “Every one of them was done properly.”

During his lengthy and detailed presentation, Franck explained that many of the condominiums assessed incorrectly — and had their assessments lowered — were originally assessed before he took office in 2006.

He said state law, dating to 1964, dictates how condominiums must be assessed and this complicated method is different from that used for traditional homes. It is based not on sales price but value of the entire condominium building and the individual unit’s potential to earn rent, he said.

Condominiums get an assessment discount or break, he said. “It’s a horrible law, it should be changed.” He feels the assessments should be based on sale prices. He said he sought a change in the state law in 2009 with the support of state Sen. Betty Little, R-Glens Falls, and the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. This initiative was not adopted by the state legislature.

Franck suspended Zlotnick without pay Aug. 24 pending a termination hearing. She was earlier placed on leave with pay for an alleged insubordination incident earlier in the year.

She has maintained that her possible firing is directly related to her year-long criticism of the way assistant city Assessor Anthony Popolizio has reduced some assessments, especially condominium assessments.

She alleged that Diane C. Young, who operates a consulting business based in Malta, was “coached” by Popolizio on how to get assessments of condominiums reduced. Young charges a property owner a fee for having his or her property assessment reduced.

Franck defended assistant city assessor Popolizio and his dealings with Young. At least 77 condominium units were said by Young to be improperly assessed in October, 2010. He said Young was correct in pointing out these improperly assessed units, all done during a city wide property revaluation of 2003-2004.

Franck said he brought this issue to the City Council on Oct. 5, 2010. The City Council agreed that these units should be reassessed prior to the next year’s grievance day in May so the city had a clear picture of revenues for the 2011 budget. These units were changed on the 2011 tax roll in March and April, 2011, he said.

Franck discussed rumors that have surfaced in some media accounts and said they were false. He explained how the people mentioned had their assessments legally changed when they grieved their assessments.

“We teach you how to grieve your assessments,” Franck said about classes his department held numerous times about the city’s assessment grieving process.

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